Implementing the post-entry English language assessment policy at the University of Melbourne: Rationale, processes and outcomes

In recognition of the impact English language has on academic outcome, the University of Melbourne mandated a post-entry language assessment for commencing undergraduate students, both native and non-native, in 2009. Students with less than 7 IELTS, 30 VCE English or 35 VCE ESL or equivalent are required to sit the Diagnostic English Language Assessment (DELA) and take up language support if they perform below a specified threshold on DELA. This paper offers an overview of the new policy and its rationale, summarizes the results and gives examples of the range of English language programs available to students. In addition, it outlines the strategies used to communicate the policy to both University staff as well as future students, and describes the hurdles experienced, in particular the issue of compliance. The introduction of the DELA was successful as measured by participation – up by 50% over the previous year in which it was voluntary – and also by increased awareness and responsiveness to the issue of language proficiency and its relationship to academic outcome. However, there were varying degrees of understanding of, and in some cases resistance to, the new policy, in addition to an uneven application across faculties. This paper aims to provide, for universities considering the introduction of a post-entry language test, some useful insights into the process, its potential pitfalls and benefits.

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Ransom, Laurie
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Journal of Academic Language and Learning, Vol. 3, No. 2, Special Issue: Proceedings of the 9th Biennial Conference of the Association for Academic Language and Learning; pp. A13-A25
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